OECD meeting on spam opens

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Governments around the world should pool resources to fight «spam» as the problem knows no national boundaries, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) will tell an anti-spam summit this week. Eradicating spam, unsolicited junk e-mail, has become a hot issue for politicians and business alike, as around half of all e-mail now comes in the form of nuisance offers for sex-enhancement aids, low-interest mortgages and the like. The problem is becoming more worrying as junk e-mails are increasingly being used to spread malicious viruses capable of taking control of an unsuspecting computer user’s machine. Spam has also been used in global e-mail fraud scams that aim to intercept consumers’ credit card or bank details. All this calls for coordinated international action, the Paris-based OECD will tell hundreds of delegates at its fully booked workshop in Brussels today and tomorrow. The European Union and the United States have taken competing approaches in addressing the problem of spam. The EU reacted by passing a law in 2002 that makes it illegal to send unsolicited e-mail unless Internet users have explicitly asked for it, an approach known as «opt in.» But so far, only half of EU governments have transposed the anti-spam rules into national legislation. The month-old US anti-spam law carries an advertiser-friendly «opt out» approach, meaning users must inform the sender they no longer wish to receive their e-mails. According to IT intelligence firm International Data Corporation, electronic mailboxes will nearly double to 1.2 billion in 2005 from about 700 million today. In May last year US Internet service provider AOL was blocking 2.37 billion spam messages per day, the OECD said.